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art by Melissa Mead

Chick Lit

Keyan Bowes is a speculative fiction writer whose work has been accepted by various online magazines including Strange Horizons, Cabinet des Fees, and Expanded Horizons, and by several anthologies. A graduate of the Clarion Writers Workshop, Keyan is currently working on two novels for young adults.
"Feathers? What do you mean, feathers?" Kate asked her co-worker, taking a bite of her honey-ham sandwich. "Aren't you eating? We're due back in fifteen."
The spring breeze blew Nelli's hair into her face, and she brushed it away impatiently.
"Quentin has feathers," she said. "All over his chest and stuff. Instead of body hair, you know."
"Weird. What color feathers?"
At the next table, a kid threw pieces of bread for the birds. A dove landed briefly on the canvas market umbrella above him. Nelli pointed to it.
"Sort of gray-brown, like that bird. But downy, like a chick. And a few shiny green ones."
"Chicks are yellow," says Kate, pulling her soda toward herself and rattling the ice in the plastic cup.
"I know that, Kate. You know what I mean. Downy but gray."
"Like baby swan thingies, cygnets?"
"Why is it important what it's like? I'm telling you Quentin has feathers!"
"All the way down?" asked Kate with interest.
"Well, yeah…." Nelli blushed.
Kate laughed. Nelli stiffened, glaring at her. "What's so funny?"
"What, Quentin Coates has got feathers? You're not serious, are you?" said Kate, looking carefully at Nelli.
"I am so serious. You don't even believe me. I wish I didn't even tell you."
"Hey, okay, Nelli," Kate said in a placatory tone. "So what did you do?"
"I didn't know what to do. I just sort of pretended. You know." Nelli took a forkful of risotto.
"Pretended?"
"Pretended like it was normal. Like he didn't have down under his arms and pinfeathers on his chest. Did you notice he always wears long sleeves in the office, even on Fridays?"
"Bummer," said Kate. "And you were so into him and all."
Nelli said nothing, concentrating on her food.
"You're not seeing him again, are you?"
"Maybe."
A couple of autumn leaves blow onto the table, and Nelli brushes them off impatiently. Shading her eyes against the slanting sunlight, she looks expectantly at Kate.
Kate's appalled. "You're going to marry Quentin? Omigod, Nelli, he's not even human! And you've been dating all these months? You never said!"
"What do you mean, not human?" Nelli drops her fork, looking offended. "Of course he's human."
"Girl, humans don't have feathers."
"Feathers? What are you talking about, feathers?"
An arguing couple walks past their table, followed by two teenagers with ice-cream cones. Kate waits until they are out of earshot, and drops her voice anyway.
"Quentin Coates has feathers!"
"Have you seen any feathers?" asks Nelli, looking her in the eye.
"You told me in April! When he first asked you out."
"You're imagining it," Nelli says flatly. "Quentin doesn't have feathers. In fact, he waxes."
She pushes her chair back, knocking her half-finished rice salad onto the ground. It spills damply from the plastic tub.
"I was going to ask you to be a bridesmaid." She stands, picks up her bag. "But I changed my mind. See you back at work."
Kate stares after her. A dove descends on the fallen food.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, October 19th, 2010


About Chick Lit. Has it happened to you? A friend tells you something startling or affecting or both. You listen sympathetically. And then, some months or years later, the topic comes up again, and your friend doesn't know what you're talking about... Lies? Memory tricks? Confider's regret? Chick Lit was written in class at Clarion, and remains one of my favorites.

- Keyan Bowes

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